Time is passing too quickly here. The internship is awesome. I’m doing a little of everything, talking to people, working on projects, helping with the day to day, and so much more. It’s interesting to see that side of life, where we help those who truly need it. That part of the city is a dark place, filled with scary people, but that’s only the surface. Just below, they are still people, laughing and screaming, but I’ve come from a culture where they are to be feared.
That is the problem with most of society, the people we are taught to fear. I notice that people avoid me in the street here. I don’t know if it’s the size and the resting angry face, or if white people have that reputation in that part of the city. I wouldn’t be surprised of either. Coming from Mexico, it’s a completely different world. The people begging here would have to work somewhere down there. Few of them are physically disabled like they were in Mexico. Most look relatively healthy, at least capable of doing basic work.
The problem is that those jobs don’t exist here. You can’t stand in traffic without the police removing you. You can’t claim a street and charge for parking, or simply open up shop in the middle of the street and start selling things. Order and modern technology have taken away all of those opportunities, as limited as they are. They are not trusted with many jobs, or there are better applicants. The problem becomes something that is not easy to fix. Education, stability, and a better starting point would help them, but there are not enough people like us around, and San Francisco is a hard city to live in.
On a positive note, the martial arts I found here is awesome. Sifu Chung teaches out of Stanford University, in the basement of the math building, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. His Wing Chun is beyond any others I have seen. I have seen his equal in other arts, but his Wing Chun has reached that level where it is no longer a human art, where you can see it work, but not how, even when he explains it.
There are few teachers I have found like him, teachers that truly push me beyond what I believe I can do, or beyond what I understand. It’s not even the complicated things, just simple changes, details, pushing me past what I can do now. It’s not anything special he does either, just how he does it. I was doing my horse stance and he adjusted it while he was teaching me a form. My legs started shaking from the effort, and he just calmly said, “let them shake.” Then he continued working with me. His voice, that calm, with just a hint of compassion, pushed me past what I thought was my limit. They are still stuck in my head, a simple concept, but with such power.
That is something I strive to be, that powerful, that extraordinary, but still that ordinary. He still gets that look on his face like he’s in physical pain when someone does something really wrong, like their Wing Chun is so bad it hurts him. Most of the time his face is dead calm, showing nothing, telegraphing nothing, but at times he will smile uncontrollably, almost laughing as we practice. He is one of the main reasons I chose to live in San Francisco instead of anywhere else in the world.
I’m still getting used to the culture, the mix of the rich and the poor, a pizza by the slice place next to a four star restaurant, a homeless shelter across from a trendy coffee house. Mexico City was a stark separation between the two worlds, only mixing in the public parks and street markets. Here, massive museums and gold-leafed government buildings are surrounded by people living on the streets.
I find myself getting stressed at times, worried about what is to come, and with where I am. The good thing is, Kung Fu is my therapy, and I have a good teacher. I come against the pain of life now and I hear that voice, “let them shake.”
The rest of the photos are from the Asian Art Museum near City Hall. It’s an amazing, massive collection, and it’s free on the first Sunday of every month.